Freudian Motivation Theory: A Comprehensive Guide

freudian motivation theory

Within the ever-evolving realm of psychology, numerous theories aim to unravel the complexities of human behavior. Among these influential theories, Freudian Motivation Theory is a prominent contender. This in-depth guide aims to delve into the intricacies of Freud’s Theory, providing readers with a comprehensive understanding of its fundamental principles and practical applications.

What is Freudian Motivation Theory?

Freud assumes that people are largely unconscious of the real psychological forces shaping their behavior. He sees the person as growing up and repressing many urges.

These urges are never eliminated or under perfect control; they emerge in dreams, in slips of the tongue, in neurotic and obsessive behavior, or ultimately in psychoses. Freud believes that a person does not fully understand his or her motivation.

Motivation researchers gather in-depth information from small samples of consumers to uncover the deeper motives that influence their product choices.

They use nondirective depth interviews and various projective techniques such as word association, sentence completion, picture interpretation, and role-playing. Motivation researchers have arrived at some interesting and sometimes peculiar conclusions about what may be in the buyer’s mind regarding certain purchases.

For example, one classic study concluded that consumers resist prunes because they are wrinkled-looking and remind people of sickness and old age. Despite its sometimes unusual conclusions, motivation research remains useful for marketers seeking a deeper understanding of consumer behavior.

Origin and History of Freudian Motivation Theory

The Freudian Motivation Theory is the brainchild of Sigmund Freud, the father of psychoanalysis. Born in 1856 in what is now the Czech Republic, Freud revolutionized psychology with his comprehensive theories about the human mind and behavior.

Sigmund Freud: A Groundbreaking Thinker

Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud

Freud was a trained neurologist, but his interest extended far beyond the physiological workings of the brain. He was fascinated by the mysteries of the human psyche and sought to unravel them. This led to the birth of psychoanalysis, a field dedicated to exploring the unconscious mind’s influence on human behavior.

Freud was the first to suggest that our behavior isn’t purely the product of conscious decisions. Instead, he proposed that unconscious desires, conflicts, and experiences significantly shape our actions.

The Birth of Freudian Motivation Theory

The Freudian Motivation Theory came into being as part of Freud’s broader psychoanalytic theory. This theory sought to map the unseen landscape of the human mind, divided into the Id, the Ego, and the Superego.

Freud proposed that these three parts of the mind constantly interact and conflict, driving our behavior. Further, he suggested two primary instincts fuel these interactions: Eros (the life instinct) and Thanatos (the death instinct).

The Evolution of Freudian Motivation Theory

Freud’s theories, including his motivation theory, were groundbreaking but also controversial. Many of his ideas faced significant criticism from contemporaries. Despite the controversy, Freud’s theories sparked a paradigm shift in psychology, leading to the development of new fields like humanistic psychology, cognitive psychology, and behavioral psychology.

While Freud’s theories have evolved and been refined over the years, their central tenets remain influential. The Freudian Motivation Theory, in particular, continues to inspire new theories and frameworks for understanding human behavior.

In conclusion, while Freudian Motivation Theory has its roots in the past, its influence extends to the present day. It continues to shape our understanding of human motivation, providing a unique lens through which to view our actions and behaviors.

The Essence of Freudian Motivation Theory

Freudian Motivation Theory posits that our actions are fueled by two key biological drives: Eros (the life instinct) and Thanatos (the death instinct). According to Freud, these primal drives steer our behavior and determine our choices.

Eros: The Life Instinct

Eros, or the life instinct, encompasses all the actions and decisions we make to sustain life and ensure the continuation of the species. This extends beyond simple survival, involving love, cooperation, and social interaction behaviors.

Eros in Everyday Life

Consider the simple act of eating when you’re hungry or forming relationships with others. Eros guides these actions. This drive keeps us safe, helps us procreate, and promotes overall well-being.

Thanatos: The Death Instinct

In contrast, Thanatos, or the death instinct, embodies our unconscious drive towards self-destruction and a return to a state of inorganic calm. It might seem counterintuitive to associate destructive behavior with motivation, but Freud viewed this instinct as a fundamental part of human nature.

Thanatos in Everyday Life

This instinct manifests in aggressive behaviors, risk-taking, and even self-destructive actions. A person might engage in reckless activities or adopt harmful habits under Thanatos’ influence.

Freud’s Structural Model: Id, Ego, and Superego

Another key aspect of Freudian Motivation Theory is the structural model of the psyche, comprising the Id, the Ego, and the Superego. These three elements constantly interact within the human mind, influencing our motivations and behaviors.

Id: The Primal Drive

The Id is the reservoir of our instinctual desires and drives, including Eros and Thanatos. It operates based on the pleasure principle, seeking immediate gratification regardless of consequences.

Ego: The Mediator

The Ego is our conscious self, which negotiates between the Id’s demands and reality’s constraints. It follows the reality principle, seeking to fulfill the Id’s desires in a socially acceptable way.

Superego: The Moral Compass

The Superego acts as our moral compass, embodying societal rules and parental guidance. It strives for perfection and judges our actions according to moral standards.

Freudian Motivation Theory in Modern Psychology

Despite criticisms, the Freudian Motivation Theory remains a cornerstone in psychological studies. It offers a framework for understanding human motivations, from the most basic desires to the complex interplay of our moral and societal norms.

As with any theory, it’s important to consider its limitations. Freud’s ideas were groundbreaking and continue to inspire new theories about human motivation. However, modern psychology also recognizes the roles of other factors, such as cognitive processes, environmental influences, and individual differences.


We gained an intricate picture of human motivation through the Freudian Motivation Theory. Like a lens, this theory allows us to glimpse the rich tapestry of the human psyche, helping us comprehend the intrinsic motivations that propel us forward in life. In studying